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In Their Own Words

January 12, 1872

Atlanta Constitution on End to Radical Reconstruction

To many Georgians, the inauguration of Democrat James Milton Smith as governor marked the end of Radical Reconstruction in this state and was a time for celebration, as indicated by the Atlanta Constitution’s coverage of the ceremonies:


“Hon. James M. Smith Installed as Governor of Georgia …

“The Empire State Switched Back Once More on the Track of Progress and Honest Government.

“A Day of Rejoicing

“This, the 12th day of January, 1872, is one of Georgia’s memorable days, to be blazoned in her history for all time to come for the occurrence of one her leading and momentous events.

“It marks


“What a world of meaning in the expression, misrule ended! An oppressed people redeemed! The restoration of honesty to public office!

“The morning dawned beautifully – a rare, sunny, cheerful, lovely day, as if nature itself rejoiced over the auspicious event.

“The occasion recalled the good old days of the State. By eleven o’clock the ladies began to flock to the State House, and by half-past eleven every available seat in the Representative Chamber and its galleries was occupied, and hundreds vainly sought admission. It was the spontaneous outpouring of the PEOPLE in rejoicing over the advent of the new era. It recalled in salient contrast the sham of inauguration that occurred when Bullock took the reins of government. Those who had the misfortune to witness that spectacle, with its immense concourse of negroes and its small attendance of whites, can realize the contrast between that occasion and one in which the sympathies and convictions of the people are enlisted. The contrast is typical too of the whole philosophy of the two occasions; one, the installation of a dynasty of corrupt adventurers forced upon a free people, by the bayonet, against their will; the other, the inauguration of a regime based upon the consent of the governed, and reflecting the virtue and intelligence of a great Commonwealth.

“A deep, electric, intense feeling of joy pervaded the vast assemblage of Georgia’s best sons and fairest daughters.

“At seven minutes of twelve the Senate entered the Representative Chamber and President Trammell took the chair.

“At precisely twelve Governor Smith entered the Chamber, accompanied by the Acting Governor, the State House officers, Supreme and Superior Court Judges, and by several leading citizens, among them General Toombs, General Colquitt, Colonel P.W. Alexander, Ex-Governor Brown and others.

“Governor Smith, according to the old custom, delivered his inaugural, and then took the oath of office himself. The inaugural speaks for itself. We give it in full … .

The inaugural was received with repeated applause. As the Governor concluded taking the oath of office the applause was deafening and prolonged. It rolled forth in a vast and increasing volume, representing the spontaneous outburst of popular joy at the great event.

“The Governor retired, the Senate withdraw and the House adjourned.

“Then burst forth a long, strong call for ‘Toombs.’ But Mr. Toombs had retired.

“The crowd dispersed. Once more we breathe. The reign of law and order begins. Since Governor Jenkins was deposed by military despotism, we have had a long night of Radical rule and Cimmerian darkness. That rule is ended. The darkness is succeeded by light. Thank God Georgia is redeemed.”

Source: Atlanta Constitution, Jan. 13, 1872.